FORSYTH, Ga. — If you know anything about Monroe County, then you know that Mary Persons football is always the subject of conversation, no matter what time of year it is. The tradition of the football team goes beyond just a game. It's the heartbeat of that community.

"Bulldog football is different than any other football because it brings the community together," said Mary Persons Touchdown Club sponsor Connie Ham.

The program success dates all the way back to the 1960s, and many players and students who graduate return.

"Growing up here, small-knit community, everybody rallies around football. I played football," said Touchdown Club President Stanley Hickman.

Those who do return typically support the next generation of Bulldogs to grace Dan Pitts Stadium. Hickman played back in 1989 and now handles the lead duties for the Touchdown Club while his son Logan takes the field as a freshman this year. 

The Touchdown Club provides upgrades to facilities and holds fundraisers for the team like any boosters, but they try to take things a step further, like feeding the players every Tuesday night during the season.

"I think us being there lets them know people care about them and it's not just on Friday nights," Hickman said.

Friday night lights are definitely the highlight of the week and the expectations for the team are high. Ask eight-year head coach Brian Nelson.

"It doesn't matter how many kids you've lost or how many kids you've got coming back or how young you are or whatever the case may be, but the expectation in this community is to win," Nelson said.

While W's in the win column are important, Ham said seeing Bulldog football players win off the field is the same as crossing the goal line.

"It's more than about football. It's so much loyalty and community pride and they rise up to help other people," Ham said.

The tradition, on and off the field, never ends.

"It's something that I think rallies around a little bit, and it's a neat little place because of that and it makes it that much more special," Nelson said.

Mary Persons' first game is August 23rd at Gainesville High School at 7:30 p.m.

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